Canada Royal Tour in Whitehorse, Yukon
Elle has just returned from an incredible trip to the Yukon in Canada where she joined the press team and followed the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during their Canada Royal Tour. If you’ve been following Elle’s trip on Instagram you will have seen how beautiful the Yukon looks!
Today, Elle is sharing her experience of being part of the press team, her first glimpse of royalty…and her slight obsession with Kate’s shoes and coats 😉
Most people have heard of Vancouver, so when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge announced their 2016 Royal Visit to Canada, no one was surprised to learn they were starting there.
The Yukon, on the other hand, raised a few eyebrows.
It might not be the most obvious destination, but after spending a week in and around Whitehorse, it’s clear why William and Kate chose to spend a portion of their Canada Royal Tour in the Yukon.
It’s a destination of absolutely untouched natural beauty, where peace and quiet are cherished and indigenous culture is fiercely preserved.
As I sit in a log cabin overlooking a glassy lake, the sound of absolute silence ringing in my ears and a log fire keeping the early morning chill at bay, it’s hard to believe that just a few hours ago I was being jostled by reporters as we all tried to get a glimpse of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Being part of the press pack for the Yukon portion of the 2016 Royal Tour is an experience I’ll never forget and it was, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most surreal things I’ve ever done.
I’ll do my best to capture the whole experience for you as I take you through the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s whirlwind 24 hours in the Yukon.
The Royal Arrival in Whitehorse, Yukon
After a briefing in the media centre, all the local press and a few of us who had already arrived from overseas jumped on a bus to the airport. When we arrived we learned that the royals were running a bit late so we had some time to chat to the growing crowds who were overlooking the airport, hoping to catch a glimpse.
The woman on the left here is Lauren – she flew all the way from Calgary to see Will & Kate! Her mum Ella (right, with the cute pup in her backpack) was married just after Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ wedding, and Lauren’s wedding was shortly after the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge.
This family loves the royals as much as (if not more than!) many Brits, so I crossed my fingers for them to get a smile and wave from the couple as they passed, and then it was time for my security check.
All the press had to line our belongings up on the ground, where a sniffer dog could inspect them for explosives. Our credentials were then checked thoroughly before we were allowed onto the tarmac, into a designated area for press.
It was a long wait in the cold, but as soon as the plane with ‘Government of Canada’ emblazoned on the side landed, the temperature was forgotten. Once it came to a stop, the back doors opened and a swarm of cameramen and press scurried off the back stairs.
A select few ran around the guard of honour to take their places for the best shot, while the rest arrived in our area, elbowing to the front to fight for the best position.
At this point, chaos ensued.
Up until this point, the mood in the press area had been casual – we’d all been introducing ourselves, chatting and laughing about the weather, but with the arrival of the paparazzi the atmosphere became tense; stressed. It was a brand new experience and one that, frankly, shocked me.
Still, I wasn’t distracted for long. The front doors opened, a few dignitaries disembarked, and then at last the royal couple appeared in the doorway of their plane.
Kate, of course, looked incredible in a deep green Hobbs jacket, accessorised with a tartan scarf and her signature nude heels.
There was a welcome speech by David Johnston, the Governor-General of Canada, and although rain threatened to dampen the celebrations it thankfully held off, and soon the couple were swept into one of the waiting SUVs to attend Land of Gold – A Yukon Cultural Celebration at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre.
One of the things I learned during the Canada Royal Tour was that the couple’s schedule is so incredibly tight that you can’t possibly attend everything they do without being in their car/plane/helicopter. I had to choose between the cultural showcase and the airport, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see their arrival in person.
Canada Royal Tour in Whitehorse and Carcross
It was an early start for the press the next morning. We met at the media centre at 7:45, and then walked across the road to the MacBride Museum.
It was another long wait in the cold while the sniffer dog once again came around and inspected our gear.
After a while, the entrance was filled up with Scouts and Brownies, who were all braving the almost-freezing temperatures in nothing but T-shirts. Crazy Canadians!
A few of the dignitaries who were milling around offered their jackets to a couple of shivering kids, but when we were given the five minute warning, the jackets were whisked back and everyone took their places.
The cars arrived, and the waiting crowds screamed and cheered as the couple stepped out. Kate looked extremely royal in a red Carolina Herrera coat, and as she walked up the path to the museum entrance and spoke to the waiting children, I caught a glimpse of her up close and personal.
She’s even more stunning in real life than she looks in the photos!
One thing that struck me was how the Duchess avoids the press, for obvious reasons! When she started walking along the path towards us, she was on the press side, but as soon as she caught sight of us she turned her head and switched sides.
This was a trend during the Canada Royal Tour – she never looked directly at the cameras, and wanted nothing to do with us. I’d say much of that is to do with the paparazzi, who didn’t stop their screaming, swearing and jostling, even when in the presence of the royal couple.
It was weird being part of that.
Although I loved the chance to get so close to Kate and William, it was clear how they felt about the constant presence of telephoto lenses, and I sympathised with a life spent constantly under scrutiny.
“I’m not one of them!” I wanted to yell, but of course, I watched quietly and snapped a few photos when I had the chance.
The Duke and Duchess were soon inside the museum, where they sent the world’s first telegraph-to-tweet, which was also the couple’s first personal tweet. It could have been a bit more interesting, tbh.
THE DUKE AND DUCHESS OF CAMBRIDGE, SEPTEMBER 2016, WHITEHORSE YUKON
— Telegraph to Tweet (@telegraph_tweet) September 28, 2016
They made their exit from the museum (alongside a Mountie, which made the whole scene look unbelievably Canadian), and then we ran (literally) to a bus, while they continued down Front Street to join a street party with locals.
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The Duke & Duchess in Carcross, Yukon
Our bus stopped at the community of Carcross, which is about an hour outside of Whitehorse. Set in the mountains, its population is around 300, and it’s home to the Carcross/Tagish First Nation.
The buildings that exist today were built during the Klondike Gold Rush, so they all have that wild west look about them. There’s a haunted hotel in town as well as a scenic steam railway line, First Nations artwork and Canada’s oldest post office in continuous operation.
We had a while to wait before the royal couple arrived, so I enjoyed watching the Carcross/Tagish First Nations performers preparing for the welcome ceremony and soaking up the surprisingly warm sunshine.
The crowds cheered as William and Kate arrived, and as they stepped out the car I was surprised to see the Duchess had changed her outfit.
Andy Carvill, who is the Khà Shâde Héni (Chief) of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation, welcomed the couple first, and then the dancers performed the traditional welcome ceremony under a brightly coloured totem pole.
As everyone turned around to see the dancers, I put my camera down and just watched the couple, soaking in the experience. Kate caught my eye for a second, and I grinned at her.
Unexpectedly, she smiled back and gave me a little wave (she obviously didn’t think I was part of the press group), and then the performance started and all eyes turned to the dancers.
My own personal royal wave was definitely a memorable moment!
The highlight of the performance was the Tagish children performing Raven and Wolf dances for the couple, who laughed and clapped along with the rest of us.
They were presented with a traditional carving, and then spent some time with the local carver before heading up the mountain to meet local youth who are part of the Single Track to Success mountain biking programme.
They met the mountain bikers at the bottom of the mountain, and as they chatted I was blown away by how genuine they were. William and Kate were so clearly interested in what the youth had to say, and they asked questions and joked with the cyclists.
It was really lovely to watch, and to witness all of the little looks and smiles the couple shared with each other. They really do look properly in love, and although some might argue that it’s their job to smile and make conversation, they must truly enjoy it to be able to really engage the way that they do.
After a few more photo ops (including an impromptu peek inside the steam train that sent the journalists into a full-scale meltdown), it was time to say goodbye.
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As the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge crossed the Carcross foorbridge to make their way out of the Yukon, I had to pinch myself. It had been a total whirlwind 24 hours.
The Canada Royal Tour continued in British Columbia, and although the newspapers have already almost forgotten their time in the Yukon, for me, it’s an experience I’ll never forget as long as I live.